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Park House
Park House, the home of HSMC

Early Days

Park House, the home of the Health Services Management Centre (HSMC) is a Victorian building (with later additions), set in extensive grounds near Edgbaston Pool and the University campus. 

Originally built for the Birmingham screw manufacturer John Hawkins sometime during the 19th century, and after having various other residents including the Marigold and Tangye families, Park House was eventually brought by Barrow Cadbury the grandson of John Cadbury, the founder of the “Cadburys” firm. Barrow Cadbury and his wife Geraldine, together with their 3 children moved from a house called “Southfield” on 64 Wheelys Road in Birmingham to reside at Park House in 1929 in order to live closer to their son Paul who was living in the neighbouring house of Priorsfield. The house was renamed “Southfield” after their previous home and Geraldine lived there until her death in 1941.

“Tuesday morning I was at the Courts, and then visited Barrow and Geraldine’s new home; it is where the Allan Tangyes lived: Barrow was not there to lunch, but Geraldine took me all over; it is very attractive and the garden was gay with tulips and aubrietia etc. The Music Room has become a very pleasant dining room”

(Elizabeth Cadbury Family Journal – May 16th 1929, The Manor House, Northfield) 

Following his wife’s death Barrow left Southfield in 1945 to live with his daughter Dorothy in Wellington Road and the house was donated to the United Birmingham Hospitals (now QEH). 

Nursing era

The Cadbury’s generosity proved timely, as an increase in workload after the war meant that United Birmingham Hospitals was in need of additional space. As a result, in 1946, the house which was still called “Southfield” became a preliminary training school providing both education and housing for new intakes of student nurses, during their first few weeks of training, and was one of the many generous gifts which both Geraldine and Barrow were to donate to the city of Birmingham. 

According to some of the nurses who came to reside in the house, it was deemed very grand and impressive due to its polished wood features and beautiful staircase, and had large bedrooms housing between 2-5 nurses at a time which were divided up according to the religion of the students. 

Reminiscences of previous nurses who resided at Southfield at the time remembered their daily routine consisting of being

“woken at about 6 30 am. A quick wash, then we donned overalls and tidied our rooms which were then inspected. We then had to clean all the toilets and bathrooms. Breakfast followed, we remember porridge, toast, sometimes an egg and tea.

Class started at 9am in the annexe. Usually lectures in the morning and practical in the afternoon. Practical lessons took place in the L shaped room at the end of the annexe. We remember the skeleton hanging from a drip stand in the corner of the room, and a couple of hospital beds where we took turns to be the patient while others made the bed. We did these five and a half days per week with Sunday off. We finished daily at about 4:30pm.”

(Peggy parker survey 2011)

The Health Services Management Centre

When the preliminary nurse training school was moved to new premises, Park House was acquired by the University of Birmingham and the Health Services Management Centre was established there in 1972. Earlier that year the “Graduate Centre for Management Studies”, which had been a collaboration between the Universities of both Birmingham and Aston, located on the Wake Green Road, had closed; but the University of Birmingham, wanting to demonstrate the importance of taught course postgraduate and post-experience students, decided to take over the running of the courses for the Department of Health and Social Security. The latter were at the time also looking to establish a new education centre in the Midlands, and so the setting up of a new centre became mutually beneficial. The centre which was originally named the “‘Health Administration Unit” thus came into being. The name was later changed to the “Health Services Management Centre” (HSMC), as it indicated a broader, more holistic approach to this type of education and development.

The newly formed department only had six staff, one of whom, Derek Williams, would be appointed as HSMC’s first director in 1973. The first courses started on 23 October 1972, and included programmes in ‘Management of Integrated Health Care’ and a Masters programme, ‘Management and Planning in Local Government Studies’, which was run jointly with INLOGOV. Working across boundaries and collaborating have a long history at HSMC!

Park House was not the first choice and in fact was not deemed particularly suitable for the needs of the new centre as it was too large, was poorly furnished, was considered to have poor teaching rooms, had no residential accommodation and was in desperate need of refurbishment. The new location also brought with it a lot of additional staff in terms of both kitchen and cleaning personnel which they had inherited from the building’s precious incarnation as a preliminary training school for nurses. However, Park House was available at the time, was near to the main campus, and in many ways has become the symbol of HSMC over the years. It has become a much loved building, warts and all, and how houses many more people than in 1972! Park House and HSMC have a symbiotic relationship, deep historical connections, and the building remains much more than wood, bricks and mortar.

The first group, (24th PTS) arrived in April 1946 and found it a happy place; the huge lounge was the classroom and the old coach house the practical room; bedrooms were large sleeping 3-6 nurses. A Home Sister looked after their welfare and the house; nurses took it in turns to sit by her at meal times. The house had huge gardens and a much used tennis court. Most relished their time at Southfield, enjoying independence but there were moments of homesickness too. The school rooms in Southfield were initially within the house, but later a purpose built school wing was added.

Anonymous, QE Nurse
Nurses arriving at Park House
Nurses arriving at Park House